This week interview results started rolling out across the globe, with Australia and South Africa being one of the first countries to hear. Since then quite a number of other countries have been notified and now the ‘Incoming JETs 2016‘ Facebook group is up and running.
Looking through the recent posts on this Facebook group I came across a few questions about things such as to how much money one should bring to Japan, when placements will be released, and so on.
I thought I would take those questions and answer them here (to the best of my ability) in the hopes that it will help give any incoming JETs reading this post a better idea of what to expect in the coming months. Additionally, feel free to share this post with any other incoming JETs you may know. 🙂
Please note: I write this based on my own experiences and what I have researched. It’s always a good idea to contact your embassy’s coordinator or head over to the JET Programme website for any specific information you might want to know.
First of all, allow me to direct your attention to the following recommended websites:
General Information Handbook – Download this document now! Seriously, this is your go-to handbook and contains all the vital information you need to know before coming to Japan. Additionally it also contains important information related to living and working in Japan.
‘Incoming JETs 2016’ Facebook Group – if you have a Facebook account then I recommend joining this group. Here you will meet other incoming JETs and get any questions answered by current JETs.
And now, onto the Incoming JETs Q&A:
- When will I leave for Japan?
There are 3 groups that arrive in Japan at different times. The group you are in depends on which embassy you applied through.
Sunday, 24th July – arrive in Tokyo
Monday, 25th & Tuesday, 26th July – Tokyo Orientation
Wednesday, 27th July – depart in the morning to your designated placement
Sunday, 31st July – arrive in Tokyo
Monday, 1st & Tuesday, 2nd August – Tokyo Orientation
Wednesday, 3rd August – depart in the morning to your designated placement
(usually for those incoming JETs who were late upgrades from alternate status):
Sunday, 21st August – arrive in Tokyo
Monday, 22nd & Tuesday, 23rd August – Tokyo Orientation
Wednesday, 24th August – depart in the morning to your designated placement
- When will I know my placement?
I would say that May is a good month to expect placement results, looking back at previous years’ stats. It could be at the beginning of May or at the end. Once you have received your placement you should be able to work out whether you will be a city/municipal JET, or a prefectural JET.
To find out more about the differences between the two then click here.
Additionally, once you know which prefecture you are heading to then I suggest joining your prefecture’s Facebook group to connect with current JETs. This is also a good way to find your predecessor if you haven’t been told who it is yet (especially for prefectural JETs who have to wait until around end of June/beginning of July to find out exactly where they are headed in the prefecture).
- How much money should I take?
This is a big question that always comes up on the forums. Looking at the general consensus, current JETs say that one should bring about US$1500-2000 (or around R20,000) to Japan.
You must remember that you will only receive your first pay check at the end of August or beginning of September. In my case (as a Hiroshima prefectural JET) I was only paid in the second week of September – I had to make the money I bought from South Africa last even longer, which was a struggle.
How much you bring all depends on the type of situation you will be arriving to in Japan. Some apartments require a few months worth of rent to be paid upfront when you arrive, others don’t. You might end up in a big city where the rent is high, or you might be out in the countryside where rent could be cheap. You will most likely be expected to get a Japanese cellphone, and usually providers expect you to pay up front for a contract (usually a 2-year contract). Other immediate expenses could involve travel, accommodation for orientation, food, getting basics for your apartment if required, paying your predecessor for items if they are selling them, etc.
The best people to ask about how much to bring would be your predecessor and Japanese supervisor as they would be able to give you a clear idea as to what expenses you might have in August.
In the General Information Handbook they mention that you should try to bring yen to Japan instead of your home currency as there won’t be many opportunities to exchange it when in Tokyo.
In my case I bought yen in cash as well as a Visa World Currency Card (highly recommended) with some ’emergency’ yen on it. The 7/11 convenience stores here have ATMs that you can use to withdraw the money from the Visa card.
- Do I go straight into teaching?
The month of August is summer break for students in Japan. So no, you won’t arrive at your placement and be expected to teach straight away.
However, if you have a base school (normally the case if you’re a prefectural JET) then you could be asked to help with club activities, such as English club, or help students prepare for their English speech contest. This was my situation when I arrived, helping students prep for the speech contest.
When you are not busy with orientations, opening bank accounts, settling into your apartment and other such technicalities, you will be at your desk, either at your base school or Board of Education (BOE) office where you can prepare for your upcoming classes in September.
Just a side note: From day one in Tokyo you are officially working for your contracting organisation. This means that when you arrive at your placement it will still be during work hours. With this in mind, you might arrive at your placement and get taken directly to your apartment to settle in, or even to the home office to register. Or you could go directly to your BOE/base school for the remainder of the day (until home time when you are off the clock).
This is exactly what happened to me. I was picked up at Hiroshima airport by my supervisor and taken directly to school where I sat at my desk (jet-lagged, overwhelmed and anxious) trying to find my bearings until it was time to leave in the afternoon and go to my apartment.
- How many orientations will I have?
The one thing the JET Programme is good at is orientations, seminars and conferences. As a JET you will experience many of these throughout the year, and all of them, I believe, are valuable sources of information when it comes to teaching and living in Japan.
Pre-departure orientation: Before you leave for Japan you will go to at least one orientation at your embassy or consulate. In South Africa the pre-departure orientation happens in Pretoria the day before you leave for Japan. Additionally, you might even have a smaller orientation/meeting at the consulates which mainly serve as a Q&A session. In my case we had a meeting for all Cape Town JETs at the consulate about a month before departure.
Tokyo orientation (post-arrival orientation): This is the 2-day orientation that happens when you arrive in Japan. On the third day you depart for your placement. You can read about my experience at Tokyo orientation here, as well as a post I wrote last year about tips for Tokyo orientation.
Prefectural orientation: Once you have arrived at your placement you will have another orientation, this time for all the JETs in the prefecture. This orientation usually occurs a few days after Group B has arrived. In Hiroshima orientation is three days long, though I have heard that in other prefectures it is sometimes only a day.
Senior-high school/prefectural JET orientation: If your contracting organisation is the prefecture’s Board of Education and you are teaching at senior-high schools, then you will probably have a day’s orientation at the BOE office. I can’t vouch for any other prefectures other than Hiroshima, but here we spend a day at the BOE in Hiroshima City where we get additional information and senior-high school teaching resources.
Japanese language camp: I am pretty sure this camp happens for all first-year JETs no matter what prefecture (though correct me if I’m wrong). It happens in Hiroshima, that’s for sure. Anyway, at Tokyo orientation you might receive a Japanese language questionnaire. This questionnaire will determine which group you will be in for the camp.
The camp happens after prefecture orientation and can last up to one week. I think it is a great way to spend more time with the other first-year JETs that you’ve met and you get the opportunity to learn and practice Japanese. 🙂
Any other questions?
The questions here are all I could think of for now that might be concerning incoming JETs. However, feel free to ask any other questions you might have through the comment section below or contact me directly through e-mail.
Congratulations to all those who have been short-listed for this year, and to those who will become upgraded alternates. And a special shout-out to incoming South African JETs. 😀